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About Clientelism and Social Policy: Reflections around the Argentine Case

Guillermo V. Alonso

The interest in studying the implementation of social policies in the Argentine subnational level, especially in the Greater Buenos Aires area, leads necessarily to the question about what, how and to what extent, clientelism pervades the public administration. In this way, a necessary first step to study the presence of clientelism in the management of social policies demands a critical analysis of the use and application of the term in the literature, that has taken for granted the existence of this particular way of politization of the public administration. The objectives of this paper are: on one hand, to establish the magnitude of the potential universe for the clientelist “administration” of the system of social policies in Argentina. On the other hand, it is oriented to consider three meanings of clientelism that are used in the literature about the administration of social policy in the Argentine subnational level, that is, clientelism as: a) pure political manipulation, b) a net of social relations where instrumental rationality and the redefinition of identities are combined, and c) a technique of management by default that allows to overcome the deficit in the technical abilities of the State.

 

Key words: Clientelism; Social Policy; Social Programs; Local Administration; Case Studies; Argentina

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